5 must-haves for your e-commerce site

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As Web sales gain importance for nearly every multichannel retailer, making sure your site is competitive with today's best e-commerce offerings is essential. Whether you're just getting started in e-commerce or your site needs freshening up, there are some basic must-haves, says Scott Todaro, senior director of product strategy at Demandware:

1 | Site search?

You need to get customers to your Web site, so proper search engine optimization is a given. But there is also the issue of site search, or native search — the search function on your site. "Finding products on a site with search can fall into different categories — natural language search, parametric and keyword, for example," says Todaro. "But the most common and the most accurate is navigation or faceted search. For example, you start to look at TVs, and lets say you click on monitors — then you can select by price range or resolution until you get to the TV you want." ?

2 | Proper merchandising?

"The lost art of merchandising is a key component of the overall retailing experience," Todaro points out. The head of merchandising for offline channels often "rules the roost," he explains, but online it is often lost in translation - a marketing manager might simply take charge of this complex role, which decides how products are categorized, how the categories are sorted, how they are made easy for people to find, how different products are tied together and how products are cross-sold and up-sold. ?

3 | Content?

Today, consumers expect not just good content that the retailer puts up about a product but also user-generated content. "Ratings and reviews and blogging about specific products are things that make your site more of a destination site and adds trust to your site," Todaro says. "People tend to take the word of other people over a company touting itself." Diverse content can make the difference between buying on that site vs. another. ?

4 | Quick checkout?

People use the Internet as a way to be more efficient with their time - and nothing slows down the process of buying online than a poor checkout process. "If you go to a lot of Web sites, there are still five-page checkouts," says Todaro. "It's brutal." Also, it's important to use the checkout process as a time for up-and cross-selling: "We do this offline — for example, when you go check out at a grocery store and there is People magazine and 32 kinds of bubble gum," he explains.?

5 | Analytics?

Gone are the days when you can just have a Web site and just measure landing page clicks. "Now, everyone wants to know the conversion rate on the price of bananas - you have to get down to the product level," he explains, so analytics and A/B testing are essential. "You want to test out different treatments, page layouts, checkouts and sort orders to get at a firm understanding of what's working."

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